Michael J. Perezous, 80, Lancaster Common Pleas Court judge, trial attorney, enjoyed sailing, reading

By on August 24, 2016

The Honorable Michael J. Perezous, 80, passed away peacefully Sunday evening, Aug. 14, 2016, at Moravian Manor in Lititz after a courageous battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

Judge Perezous was born, educated, and lived his life in Lancaster. He was raised in a multi-generational, Greek-immigrant household three blocks south of Penn Square, in a vibrant Greek and Italian community on Beaver Street. He was a life-long member of the Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.

In 1957 he married the former Dolores Xakellis, a fellow member of J.P. McCaskey (“Lancaster High”) Class of 1954, and a Sunday School classmate.

Throughout his life, Judge Perezous was an example of hard-work and dedication. He worked his way through college and law school, graduating from Franklin & Marshall in 1958, and Temple University Law School in 1961. He believed that the jobs he had, such as stocking shelves at ACME markets, working on the factory floor at Armstrong, substitute teaching in Philadelphia-area schools, and selling men’s clothing, provided diverse experiences that helped prepare him for a legal career spanning more than 20 years as a trial attorney and then 25 years as a respected judge on the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas.

The only child of the late John and Lucille Perezous of Lancaster, Judge Perezous was raised by his maternal grandmother and spoke only Greek when he began school.

Although he quickly learned English, early struggles made him appreciate the value of education, fostered an interest in reading, and set him on the path to becoming a jurist respected for the logic and clarity of his writing. After completing law school, Judge Perezous returned to Lancaster and completed a preceptorship with local attorney, George C. Xakellis. He then briefly became a sole practitioner before forming a partnership with his former preceptor, and fellow attorney John Mongiovi. The firm Xakellis, Perezous, and Mongiovi, dubbed “the United Nations” by Judge Perezous, endured for nearly 20 years until his election to the bench in 1981.

During his 45-year professional career as a lawyer and jurist, Judge Perezous was recognized by his peers with an “AV” rating, which represents the highest level of expertise and achievement as a trial lawyer. In addition to representing private clients as a criminal defense attorney and maintaining a general civil practice, he was at various times the solicitor for West Hempfield Township, the Annunciation Orthodox Church, and the Lancaster County Institution District. He also represented both the city and the county of Lancaster as an assistant solicitor.

After his initial election for a 10-year judicial term, Judge Perezous was retained by Lancaster County voters for two additional 10-year terms and served until mandatory retirement from the bench at age 70 in 2006, after which he became a senior judge.

At the retirement dinner honoring him for his 25 years of exemplary public service, a speaker discussed how well he displayed every aspect of judicial temperament, as well as a “gentleness and pleasantness that is rarely seen.” Others have simply noted that he was not just a gentleman, he was truly a “gentle” man who touched the lives of all who met him.

Beyond his stellar legal career, he was a devoted and loving husband. Having known Dolores since childhood through their common membership in a closely-knit, church-centered Greek community, he attended different city schools than she did until both began attending Lancaster High. Dolores finished slightly ahead of him near the top of their class, and family lore has it that Judge Perezous’ first documented display of the common sense (for which he later became known as a lawyer and judge) was in never disputing their class rank.

With a twinkle in the blue eyes that he inherited from his yiayia, Judge Perezous enjoyed stating that he married the girl of his dreams despite being a shy boy from Beaver Street. They first dated through the efforts of a mutual friend during one of Dolores’ trips home from her freshman year studies at Albright College. Theirs was a traditional marriage. But in the words of Judge Perezous, he may have presided over the courtroom, but his beloved “Dee” ruled everywhere else, a recipe for nearly 60 years of marital harmony.

Judge Perezous was a dedicated and active community member. He served two terms on the parish council of the Annunciation Church and, together with Dolores, sang in the church choir throughout his life. He also contributed his pleasant tenor voice to a costumed role as one of the Three Kings for many years during the annual Courthouse Carol Sing and to the skits presented at the annual Lancaster Bar Association Banquet (then known as the “Blackstonian Blackmail”).

Judge Perezous was among the initial group of mentors in the F&M College Spaulding Leadership Program from its inception in 1990 through 2005. He received a friendship award in 1996 from a delegation of elected officials from his ancestral island of Kos, Greece; and, shortly before retiring, was presented the Distinguished Alumni Award, 2006, from the McCaskey Alumni Association.

Besides being a voracious reader, Judge Perezous enjoyed sailing his catamaran on the Susquehanna and nearby lakes, building model ships, and playing chess. For many years, he joined other tennis-loving Greeks for weekly doubles matches. He and Dolores enjoyed traveling, and counted among their favorite tourist destinations France, Spain, Italy, and Greece. They also visited the Philippines and Denmark for a family wedding and birth of a grandchild. In later years, they enjoyed summer vacations to the South Jersey beaches of Wildwood Crest and Avalon with their children and grandchildren; and more private getaways to Bermuda, Anguilla, and other Caribbean Islands.

As a student of history and as a child of World War II, Judge Perezous was moved while visiting the fortress-island of Corregidor in Manila Bay and recalling its significance. He was proud to have climbed all 509 steps up to the observation level of the south tower of Cologne Cathedral in Germany.

Until he entered Moravian Manor in January of this year, one of Judge Perezous’ greatest pleasures was attending his grandchildren’s activities: soccer, baseball, softball, and basketball games; swimming competitions; concerts and recitals.

Besides his wife Dolores; Judge Perezous is survived by two sons: Jonathan Perezous Esq. and Mark Perezous M.D, their wives and children. Jonathan and his wife, Janet, of Potomac Falls, Va., have two daughters: Janika, 13 and Micaela, 9. Mark and his wife, Stephanie, of Lititz, have four children: Michael, 19; Kyle, 18; Brandon, 16; and Demetra, 12.

A viewing will be held Thursday, Aug. 18, from 5 to 8 p.m., with a Trisagion Service at 7 p.m., at Charles F. Snyder Jr. Funeral Home and Crematory, 3110 Lititz Pike, Lititz. The viewing will resume on Friday, Aug. 19, at the Annunciation Orthodox Church, 64 Hershey Ave., Lancaster, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., followed immediately by funeral services at 10:30 a.m., at the church, with Rev. Dr. Alexander Goussetis officiating. A funeral cortege will depart for a final interment ceremony at Conestoga Memorial Park.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Judge Perezous’ memory to the American Parkinson Disease Association, Parkinson Plaza, 135 Parkinson Ave., Staten Island, NY 10305-1425.

Share online condolences at snyderfuneralhome.com. Charles F. Snyder Jr. Funeral Home and Crematory, Lititz, handled the arrangements.

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